Toshihiko Tanabe, a retired advertising
executive and guitar enthusiast in Kawasaki, Japan, manufactures
boutique pedals as a hobby. The Zenkudo ($310 direct),
which was the first pedal that Tanabe developed, reveals in its
appearance and control labeling a close similarity to the Hermida
Zendrive, developed by Alfonso Hermida to elicit the sound
of Robben Ford’s Dumble amp tone. Tanabe’s Zenkudo and
Dumkudo pedals are, in fact, substantial redesigns of the Zendrive
pedal to the point where they have become different circuits.
Tanabe tell us that he redesigned the circuit to get closer
to his ideal of the Dumble sound, and that he also added
a 3-position switch on the side of the housing that cycles
through three modes: Zenkudo, Marshall, and Dumble.
The LED indicator also changes from blue to red to green
to indicate which mode that the pedal is in. As an owner
and player of several Dumble amps since the late 70’s, I am
always anxious to compare the recent and various “Dumblein-
a-box” pedals that have been appearing in the boutique
pedal market. Does Zenkudo sound like a Dumble amp? Yes,
as with the Hermida Zendrive or entirely different circuit architecture
of the Custom Tones Ethos pedal, it excels at achieving
the famed Dumble overdrive tone. If you have the chops, you
can certainly sound like most of the classic 90’s Dumble players,
such as Robben Ford or Larry Carlton, with the Zenkudo.
To my ears, the Zenkudo is actually a bit more hi-fi and detailed
sounding than the Zendrive pedal or a Dumble amp. It also
sounds less compressed and responds more dynamically to your
playing. Experiencing the Zenkudo, the Zendrive, the Ethos,
and a Dumble Overdrive Special could be compared to visiting
three five-star restaurants; each is are uniformly excellent, though
you might prefer one over another depending on the situation.
PROS Quiet. Terrific variety of tones. Responsive controls.
CONS Pricey. Low contrast between control labels and abalone
background can make it difficult to read labels on dark stage.
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